The confusion surrounding experiencing transitions
My experience with literature has always been soured, dating back to my O-level English Literature days. During this time, I was often encouraged to share my thoughts on various literary mediums/literary pieces and articulate my theories and speculations under the promise that no answer is wrong, or idea is stupid. Only, however, to be met with a mediocre essay score and a passive-aggressive footnote about how I may have missed the mark “just a tiny bit”. Well, today I will be celebrating that by discussing my thoughts on some popular media while making deductions (that probably miss the mark) about sections of this content and how they perfectly represent what transitional phases feel like. Life-stage transitions which are (periods in time that involve a shift in one’s lifestyle) are fascinating to me for a myriad of reasons. One of them being that I am currently going through one, making me a primary stakeholder, but more interestingly, no one seems to have any solid advice on or method for navigating this tumultuous time. All everyone ever seems to get is a constant reminder to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. It also does not help that the description of this phenomenon is so elusive, despite being experienced by the vast majority of the human race.
I recently watched Licorice Pizza by Paul Thomas Anderson which I found to be an overall very aesthetically pleasing film that captures the zeitgeist of 70s LA but has glaring issues like an inappropriate relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a 25-year-old woman as well as a bit with blatant racism towards Asian people. Many have come to ention that its inclusion was a sign of the times, though, I would argue the message could have been conveyed without this problematic matter. Upon its completion, I decided to watch a review by Karsten Runquist, who is a film critic on YouTube. Karsten perfectly described the aura the film had which embodies the quarter-life crisis which is adolescent
aimlessness. In the video, he states, “there is something to connect with as far as how Licorice Pizza depicts adolescence and floating in time”. At this stage, an individual, “does not know where to go but runs at the speed of light towards nothingness”. A truly accurate explanation of the disorienting nature of any transitional phase. Energy is exerted in all directions in the pursuit of receiving a clear reaction or some form of a sign but it echoes out into a void. This feels demotivating, especially when you have been told the key to finding your purpose or at least “the right direction” is in trying everything and anything under the sun. Betrayal and wear are the only wages for your efforts. So how much does it hold up? Well, the truth is it might just be the tactic with the highest success rate, even though the efficiency is low. Such is the case that with enough output in numerous directions there is bound to be a reaction, thus the greatest gift you could give anyone transitioning is a patient spirit. This does not change the fact that it’s okay to grow tired. It is only human to get impatient from time to time. There should not be any additional pressure about one’s failure to cope when someone experiences these natural frustrations.
I’m sorry, I need to sit down and process this
Feeling like you are stuck in limbo even though you’re moving at supersonic speed has to be one of the most vexing situations anyone can experience; one that can easily be likened to that of being on a large plane during a long-haul flight or a massive cruise ship, as it gives you the illusion of being stationary even though you’re in motion. Everything in your immediate world is moving at the same or similar speed relative to you. Now, concerning the real-life comparison, referenced in the metaphor. You could, for example, have finished high school, awaiting university and taking the necessary steps to gain a place during a gap year. Even learning to cope with a chronic illness and making efforts to adjust can fall under this bracket. In spite of this because your peers are putting in just as much effort and or more (maybe even less) to stay afloat, survive and navigate their own trails testing them; you begin to view your outputs as only being the bare minimum, hence reinforcing the notion that you are still in the same position. On paper, you’ve made ZERO movement because everyone has also made progress, but this is simply not true! Social media in this regard functions as a massive agent in shaping our perception of everyone’s position relative to ours. The portrayal of an individual’s life on social media platforms creates a cocktail of curated highlights that are false benchmarks for what we are supposed to have achieved by a certain period of time. This is strongly exacerbated by a modern culture that values consistent output and high efficiency at the expense of fulfilment and the humanity that grounds us in our universal need for a break. Peace, a pause, just to process our lives that move at breakneck speed all the time.
On Carousel by Travis Scott featuring Frank Ocean two lines into the verse, he drops the lyrics, “Don’t need a vacation, I need a replacement”, nothing too complex, however, it speaks volumes to the subject of needing breathing room to register your environment and the decisions made around you, as well as their implications on your life. An anonymous contributor on genius interpreted this lyric as Travis having fatigue associated with his “non-stop work ethic”. I think we can all say we have all wished for a temporary pause in time, not even to get up to the tomfoolery of our dumbest desires but to gain that extra little chance to prepare more. It doesn’t help that capitalism demands constant output, fuelling us to look for that slight opportunity to catch up from feeling like we are eternally falling behind. Alas, this isn’t remotely possible, so our brains shut down this idea very quickly. However, Travis’s suggestion is not too far off from reality. If we had it our way, we would automate parts of our lives and outsource mundane activities, leaving us more time to spend on getting to the destination. We rarely want and feel like we are not moving forward. Ultimately this need is connected to understanding our position in reference to our past and how we must progress. Human beings love to feel in control of their situation and thus we develop all these routines and plans to map out our pathway to the future. Part of this process is, well, “pausing to process” because when we are allowed to slow down and move at our own speed, we gain calmness in our transitory phase and the understanding that our transition is actually an evolution that happens differently for everyone.
Estimated travel time to Saturn: 8 years
All great changes happen gradually over time for them to be noticed. This alone does not entail that nothing is going on behind the scenes. Incremental steps taken still produce an outcome. You are not stationary when you put your foot forward even if you cannot see where you are headed. The title of this article was originally the title of this specific segment, the reason being I got my light bulb moment while watching Christopher Nolan’s tear-jerking film “Interstellar” (damn those waterworks just came rolling out). The duration of the space crew’s trip to Saturn was 7 years. This seemed extremely slow especially after leaving the visual field of their home planet earth. Despite this, they were moving relatively fast by regular standards on earth. The crew could go into cryogenic sleep but even then, Nolan makes it aware to viewers that this felt like an endless journey. Regardless, in all of this, they were not stationary and that matters!
One scene reframed my thinking on transitioning from one point in life to another. The scene in question has the protagonist, Cooper calming his fellow space crew member Romilly about his anxieties about venturing into the depths of the cosmos. Upon my rewatch of the film, I took away an understanding of travel anxiety I had never considered before, one that applied to going through the motions of life changes. My conclusion was that the cause of this anxiety stems from the human need to identify familiar patterns. In the movie, Romilly mentions the fact that nothing but millimetres of aluminium separating them from the frightening void that is space ‘gets to him’. This is another extract of media I would consider a near-perfect metaphorical depiction of a transitional phase.
In addition, because their final destination was intended to be earth after a round trip through a wormhole to three potential “earth-like” planets; Romilly would not experience anything that could be considered ‘familiar’ any time soon, hence this created his feeling of limbo. Cooper’s response to Rom, however, was intriguing, he tells Romilly “some of the finest solo yachtsmen don’t know how to swim” and “if they go overboard, they are done”. He concludes his statement by telling Rom that they are explorers before handing Romilly a pair of earphones to listen to the sound of a thunderstorm and rain, (familiar earth sounds).
My interpretation of the thunder playing into Romilly’s ears as the ship sailed through space was that his anxieties were not calmed by the illusion of a familiar comfortable situation. Cooper gave Romilly the earphones with a thunderstorm playing because he was showing him that even in the uncertainty and uncomfortable situations human beings have found comfort. The situation was not going to change there and then nor was it going to get better anytime soon, but there was purpose and meaning to be found in what they were doing and by extension, peace in that. Think about how an actual thunderstorm on our lovely planet earth is a hectic thing to experience in its own right, yet when behind only inches of cement and a roof it’s a fast pass to snoozeville. What this is, is not a matter of being thrust into a vacuum and more about moving from a comfort zone to new standing and outgrowing a shell. A progressive metamorphosis. Naturally along with this transformation, there’s a sense of vulnerability because the usual protections and structures you had are gone, leaving you to just trust that you will be okay.
Despite this, some people’s approach to this is to just function on autopilot much like the Interstellar crew
during “hypersleep”. For a majority of us, this is way more palpable because it still allows us to experience our journey but from the bleachers in a third person’s view. A TikTok I watched recently had a girl looking very distraught after realizing that she left her headphones at home and the hilarious caption “Me just raw-dawging life because I left headphones at home”. Of course, this absolutely sent me because it was relatable but also made me think a lot about us people who choose to go through transitional periods almost comatose because we are too terrified to experience the uncertainty of the journey, which is unfortunate because it is so counterproductive. It shields us from exposure which increases the length of time we spend learning during our transition. It also discourages us from bonding over our shared confusion and frustration which prevents us from building our character.
Life was built to be done together <3
Greeting our changes and phases with curiosity is the best way to preserve your sanity. When we do so, we do not get swept away and overwhelmed by the torrent of instability but instead nurture our creative prowess which helps us decode the purpose of our transition. Like Cooper said, “we are explorers” and the final destination should not be something dangling over our heads like a target but rather the end to a remarkable journey. The fact of the matter is that even though it feels like it’s taking an eternity to get out of this physical, emotional, or metaphorical liminal space we do not experience this alone. Whether our friends and peers have the map to navigate it is debatable, but what brings us together in being human is our shared experience. When we do so we can gather strength from each other, this strength manifests itself as endurance, endurance which is more than enough to cope with the passing phases in the grandiose scheme of our lives.